I believe most people are interesting and the surest way to prove it is to ask someone what they would like more of the world to know. This usually brings up issues that are near to their heart.
- A promoter for mixed martial arts fighters said he wanted more young people, girls and boys, to learn about martial arts and not just the physical aspect but the history and traditions.
- A professor from a small college town wanted students to learn about the history and geography of their area, which was far more interesting than students knew.
- Middle school students from two Dakota reservations said, “That we are still here.” That one hit my heart so much that we made the game Making Camp Dakota with a group of students.
Everyone has knowledge they want to share
How we fell into making customized games is a story for another day, but once we got started we found out that everyone has knowledge they want to share, whether it is the Lakota language, how wool makes it from the sheep to your sweater or how to interpret bar graphs.
The problem with sharing that knowledge, I hate to say, is that often people know too much.
This leads to:
- Diving in without establishing the basics. For example, talking about Leeds, North Dakota without mentioning that North Dakota is in the north central United States or comparing the mean and median without defining either one.
- Trying to talk about too many things at once, jumping from SEO optimization to SWOT analysis to marketing campaigns.
- Forgetting that not everyone is as interested in your topic as you are.
Learning almost anything can be interesting, if ….
Learning almost anything can be interesting, if we make the effort. I don’t mean to say that people aren’t working hard, whether it is the state historical society or the National Date Growers Association (which, as far as I can determine, does not exist. What’s up with that, date farmers?) Rather, it is that they are often SO enthusiastic about their topic that they don’t stop to think about how the became interested to begin with.
Perhaps their interest in history began with a great-grand-parent who played a signficant part in a major war or they wanted to learn agriculture because of a field trip they took to a research farm. To get new learners interested, you need to make that personal connection.
Does learning have to be fun?
Oddly, for someone who makes games for a living, I would argue that learning does not HAVE to be fun, but if it is, that certainly makes it easier to get the rest of the world on board. Learning does need to be meaningful and understandable- making it fun, though, is icing on the cake. The fact is, a lot more people eat cake with icing than without it.
It’s an exciting time to make educational games
When I talk about the excitement of educational games, my youngest daughter rolls her eyes at me. Her ideas of excitement involve more tequila and a lot less programming. However, it is exciting. The world is full of people who have knowledge to share and games are a great way to do it. We’ve made games in Lakota, in Spanish and English. I have learned about sheep farming, non-Indigenous turtle species and how to say “rabbit” in Ojibwe.
Making customized games gives communities a chance to preserve their knowledge, individuals an opportunity to share their passion and I get to be in the middle of all of it.
How can you not think that is exciting?
Want to learn more about making a customized game? Check out Think Your Game Idea Can’t Happen? Think Again!